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November 20, 2018

Mumias Sugar firm woes hit residents' pockets hard

Mumias Sugar Company cane transporters and cane harvesters during a stakeholders' meeting at the Booker Academy hall last year. Photo/File
Mumias Sugar Company cane transporters and cane harvesters during a stakeholders' meeting at the Booker Academy hall last year. Photo/File

Mumias town was a point of reference in money circulation from mid 1970s after the establishment of Mumias Sugar Company by the Booker Tate investors.

Locals were employed as skilled and semi-skilled workers on permanent and temporary terms.

Majority indirectly benefited from the Mumias factory through sugarcane growing, which gave them lucrative earnings.

Retail shops, jua kali artisanship, dairy, poultry and horticulture farming also sprung up as sugar money circulated around the town.

Patrick Baraza owned a shop at Ekero shopping centre in Mumias and earned about Sh7,000 profit per day.

“I started a wholesale shop in 1988 and it was doing marvelously up to three years back when I was nearly  forced to close it. I have been struggling with my business up to this day,” hesays.

During the good times when Mumias Sugar operated robustly, Baraza recalls, he had many customers, including schoolchildren who bought stationery and foodstuff.

He was also a local cleaning contractor and porter at Mumias since 1987.

“But since Mumias started experiencing financial challenges, the business is doing badly that I have been forced to reduce it to a retail operation. However, many customers are not able to purchase in cash and are instead buying goods on credit without paying back,” laments Baraza.

David Wanjere, a horticulture farmer from Elwanda in Matawa sub-location, says his farming business deteriorated after customers failed to pay him for his produce.

“I had a number of customers who purchased my produce on order. I would drop their orders and go back after two or three days to collect my cash. But this stopped when most of them failed to pay back their orders, claiming they had no money to give me,” says a dejected Wanjere.

Most of his customers, he notes, were Mumias Sugar employees while others were contractors or indirect dependants of the miller.

“Besides horticultural farming, I also used to collect children of Mumias Sugar employees to and from school by my cab. All these have since come to a halt because the employees claim there is no money to pay me for my transport services,” Wanjere says.

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